Normally, I encourage people to use written contracts for legal matters; some transactions, in fact, are unenforceable without written contracts; such as agreements for sale of property, and sales of goods for more than $500. In most circumstances, written contracts are good; they set out the terms, by having the parties sign the contracts they show that they understand and agree to the terms.
However, when it comes to leases, particularly for residential premises, written contracts, written leases, can lead to problems; particularly where the tenant becomes undesireable. Maybe they’re paying the rent, but late; maybe they’re disturbing other tenants, maybe they’re not keeping the property up. In order to terminate a written lease, you need to show that problem they are causing is either something that is so egregious that they should not be given an ‘opportunity to cure’, which is a fairly high standard, or that you’ve given them prior notice of the exact same problem and they’ve either failed to cure it within 7 days or they’ve cured and let the problem recur.
This is the thing; landlords want two things; they want the rent paid, in full, on time, and they don’t want to deal with complaints, either from the tenant or other tenants or the city or the county. They don’t want to be constantly nagging tenants to pay the rent on time, to clean up the yard, to turn down the music at night, to stop flushing diapers down the septic system, or what have you.
The problem is, if there is a written lease, the tenant has certain rights under that lease and it becomes very difficult to terminate the lease early.
Likewise, sometimes landlords decide to sell property during a lease; under most circumstances, the new owner of the property is going to take subject to the existing written lease; and they may not be satisfied with the rental payments or the tenant. Essentially, though, that’s tough luck; a written lease is going to bind the tenant and the landlord and any successors to the landlord.
So, what’s the alternative?
An oral lease or a “month to month” tenancy; the renter pays the rent each month and they get to stay there for the next month. If they don’t pay, then eviction proceedings are brought. And if the tenant becomes a problem, or if the property is sold, then the landlord can terminate the lease; and can usually terminate the lease with as little as 15 days notice up to a maximum of about 45 days notice; depending on where in the month you are (Florida requires 15 days written notice, but it must be delivered not less than 15 days before the rent is due; so if the rent is due on the 1st and today is the 20th, you don’t have 15 days to give them notice; you would have to give them notice for the FOLLOWING month, i.e, the beginning of not next month but the month after that).
What’s the disadvantage to not having a written lease? You could get into trouble if you try to collect either more than one months rent (first and last months rent) and you could get into trouble if you try to collect a security deposit. Florida has specific laws on security deposits; the Florida statute requires that the landlord disclose certain things in writing to the tenant if the landlord holds a security deposit, and frankly, most Florida landlords don’t comply with the statute.
Additionally, if the tenant decides to ‘break’ the lease it becomes difficult to claim very many damages for a month to month lease.
Whether you use a written lease for residential tenancies requires some thought; additionally, if you do use a residential lease it is important to use a proper one; a lot of them floating around on the internet and on legal software and at office supply stores aren’t very good. If you are going to use a written lease than I would strongly suggest you get one drafted by a Florida attorney; there are certain items that should be in it.
If you have residential property for lease in or around The Villages, Florida, please contact me prior to renting the property; we can discuss whether a written lease is best for you and if so, I can provide one tailored to your situation.
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